Monday, November 8, 2010

A trick up my sleeve

I've got a trick up my sleeve to catch up on Nanowrimo today - it comes down to writing Scene Capsules, which outline the date, time, setting, main characters involved and a draft of the scene - all items that you should know when you're getting to work on writing something.

And I've got a template that helps lay all of that information out - meaning, I can copy and paste that about 20 times and catch up on the 4,000 words I need to get done today to get back on pace for Nanowrimo. Is it cheating a little bit? Well, kind of, but it's a necessary step that has to be done whether I was banking on word count or not. So - I don't feel dishonest about it.

Besides, it's a great way to pad your stats.

[UPDATE (10:26): the trick only bought me 300 words, not cool. But I've got through the 1,700 words meant for Sunday - now to catch up and write another 1,700 for today - then we're back in the driver's seat. So far I've written 13,863 words. Not bad.]

Star-spangled Theropod
From the Smithsonians' magazine:


Today’s Dinosaur Sighting comes to us from David Rice, who spotted this star-spangled theropod dinosaur in the vicinity of Beloit, Wisconsin. As David pointed out in his e-mail, the top half of the dinosaur is reminiscent of a tyrannosaur, but the feet have weird lumps which look like the sickle claws of the “raptors;” maybe it is some kind of hybrid. Whatever the theropod is meant to be, though, it is hardly the only patriotic dinosaur around—in previous posts we’ve featured a Stegosaurus covered in stars and stripes and “George Washasaurus.”
which the Smithsonian followed up with an article on the Kentrosaurus, and a very cool photo:

Stegosaurus Week: The Many Postures of Kentrosaurus
Here's a quick little history on the Kentrosaurus, and a small history on the study of its posture.


Since the early days of paleontology, the posture of dinosaurs and the range of motion they were capable of have been contentious subjects for paleontologists. Among the spate of recent studies on dinosaur flexibility, posture and motion is a new paper by Heinrich Mallison which used the Jurassic stegosaur Kentrosaurus to investigate some of the hypotheses surrounding this armored dinosaur.

Most of what we know about Kentrosaurus comes from the approximately 153-million-year-old Tendaguru Formation in Tanzania. It was there that the German paleontologist Edwin Hennig found numerous isolated bones and elements of disarticulated Kentrosaurus skeletons—in addition to the bones of many other dinosaurs—during the early 20th century; he was also lucky enough to find one partial skeleton of the stegosaur that was suitable for mounting. This specimen, reconstructed with sprawling limbs and a dragging tail, was on display at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin for decades. When it was taken apart to restore it in a more accurate posture in 2005, scientists made laser scans of each bone in order to create a digital restoration. It is this digital Kentrosaurus that formed the basis of Mallison’s new study—the closest thing a paleontologist has to a living dinosaur to examine.

In addition to its normal posture and range of motion, Mallison’s study looks at several controversial, little-studied ideas about this dinosaur and its kin. According to Hennig, Kentrosaurus had a squished, lizard-like posture and could not use its spiky tail for defense. In the 1980s, however, paleontologist Robert Bakker went to the opposite extreme, restoring stegosaurs with an erect posture that would have allowed them to pivot and swing their formidable tails at attacking predators. Additionally, Bakker proposed that Stegosaurus and its kin could have adopted a “tripodal” posture in which they reared back to rest on their tails, too, and were much more dynamic animals than envisioned by Hennig and other early 20th-century paleontologists.

Although Mallison stresses that the findings based upon his model are provisional, Kentrosaurus appears to have used different postures for different reasons. While walking, it would have held its limbs erect, but when threatened it was capable of flexing its forelimbs out into a sprawling position to help support itself as it swung its tail at an offending predator. In the latter circumstance, Kentrosaurus would have also been able to extend its neck to look backwards at an attacking dinosaur, though shifting position to keep a predator in view may have created blind spots that would have left this armored dinosaur vulnerable to multiple predators. As far as feeding was concerned, Kentrosaurus was indeed capable of rearing back to rest on its tail, though how often it would have done so—and what sort of food it would have been able to reach by doing so—is unknown. Overall, Kentrosaurus was not as stiff as Hennig proposed. Quite the contrary—this stegosaur was capable of altering its posture to suit a variety of circumstances, and it is likely that at least some of its relatives had similar abilities.
Nothing scientific, just dinosaurs - and Halo
It's kinda stupid, really.

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